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The development of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines has gained wide acceptance in high-income countries and reputable international organizations. Whereas this approach may be a desirable standard, challenges remain in low-income settings with limited capacity and resources for evidence synthesis and guideline development. We present our experience using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach for the recent revision of the Kenyan pediatric clinical guidelines focusing on antibiotic treatment of pneumonia.
A team of health professionals, many with minimal prior experience conducting systematic reviews, carried out evidence synthesis for structured clinical questions. Summaries were compiled and distributed to a panel of clinicians, academicians and policy-makers to generate recommendations based on best available research evidence and locally-relevant contextual factors.
We reviewed six eligible articles on non-severe and 13 on severe/very severe pneumonia. Moderate quality evidence suggesting similar clinical outcomes comparing amoxicillin and cotrimoxazole for non-severe pneumonia received a strong recommendation against adopting amoxicillin. The panel voted strongly against amoxicillin for severe pneumonia over benzyl penicillin despite moderate quality evidence suggesting clinical equivalence between the two and additional factors favoring amoxicillin. Very low quality evidence suggesting ceftriaxone was as effective as the standard benzyl penicillin plus gentamicin for very severe pneumonia received a strong recommendation supporting the standard treatment.
Although this exercise may have fallen short of the rigorous requirements recommended by the developers of GRADE, it was arguably an improvement on previous attempts at guideline development in low-income countries and offers valuable lessons for future similar exercises where resources and locally-generated evidence are scarce.